Darwin to ashmore reef
Despite the slow conditions we still managed to have fun. On the first day we swam in the paddling pool wedged in the cockpit then the next day it was off the back of the yacht mid ocean which the kids really enjoyed in the heat of the day. I remember the temperture reaching 39 degrees, followed by the Australian Boarder Force plane swooping down while we were washing naked in the cockpit.
The dolpins seemed to be around often and so were the tuna as we passed over the sea mounts. There was some larger yellow fin tuna leaping out of the water. We managed to get a small nick out of the lure from the tuna whilst the mackerel tuna are much easier to catch with two already in the freezer ready for fish cakes.
Today is the last day in the July calender month and yet again my birthday looms. Hannah and the kids are excitingly brewing something for the day and it looks as if it's going to be celebrated at sea again, not that i mind.
Tonight has been calm with a half moon leading the way. The cruising chute is up but we are only making 2 knots of boat speed. At least it's flying and I can have a cupper with out being distracted by an over powering sail. It's a beautiful night and there is no hurry.
31st July, conditons haven't changed accept for our fishing luck along the Australian coast. Three strikes today, a Barracuda, a Dorado and the other one was lost. Now that the freezer is full the rods will no longer be needed.
The Boarder Force plane flew over head again asking for a few details. There was some concern over some Indonesian fishing vessel and another yacht was asked to report a visual of the vessel.
No engine noise to spoil our tranquil sailing today, just the ocean lapping gently at our stern and the kids creating a new game of pupperty with their long lines dropping through the hatch with a figure at the end which lead through the companion way and back into the boat. The three bounced their figures as if having a war in mid air.
Our sailing configuration had changed to wing on wing (gull winging) cruising chute out on one side and the genoa on the other making 4-5 knots in 7-9 knots of wind.
For miles we could see the illumination from the warm light blue colours of shallow water reflecting onto the low level clouds as we drew near to the reef. We should get to Ashmore reef tomorrow late afternoon.
As I predicted, we sailed over the north side of the reef then suddenly the rod screemed with no intentions of stopping. The yacht was quickly de-powered by furling away the head sail. By now there must have been 100 yards of line stripped off the reel, even getting the rod out of the holder wasn't easy, was this my yellow fin tuna?!
I fought hard for 10 minutes and eventually we could see, it wasn't the large tuna I was hoping for but a large spanish mackerel which will still keep the rust off the frying pan. Thanks to the controlled co-ordination of my crew other wise the fish might not have reached our deck. Well done to everyone on board, now we can rest for a couple of days and enjoy the reef.
carpe diem's fishing team
Ashmore Reef 1st august 2017
The kids did get a nice navy cap each from the officers and I got a weather update. Their final comment was "the sharks are schooling so be careful" which did put the kid on edge.
Once our visitors had left the spanish mackerel was filleted ready for Hannah's famous crispy battered fish fingers which always goes down a treat with the kids.
Throwing the fish carcase over the back of the boat was of some concern. We did it anyway and guess what, no sharks!
All the clocks were set back two hours to suit the time zone ready for the early start in the morning.
The boat chores started early this morning with the water maker on, the water tanks filled from the water cans stored on deck. We had motored quite a bit on this trip so the fuel tank needed filling from the three 25 litre cans on deck which left our fuel gauges reading full.
The kids were already mid way through writing their journal and the excitement of going ashore was building. Once schooling was finished on the boat we all climbed into the tender for lesson two of the day, Geography.
The beach landing felt restricted as there were strict rules of where you can and can't go. What drew us out of the tender was the large colony of Noddie birds nesting in the vegetation just beyond the sand with hundreds hovering above just metres off the beach. A quick glance over my shoulder to see if the navy approved, all seems above board so we continued, avoiding distracting the nesting birds. At the far end of the small island a hand water pump caught the kids attention. Jacob was first to pump but lacked the strength on the up stroke, Joshua was more successful tasting the water as it bellowed out of the tap. Salty was his verdict.
Sadie and Jacob were fascinated by the chicks and large amounts of eggs being nursed by the adult birds. We encouraged them to keep some distance between themselves and the nesting birds as they can become aggressive as they protect their young.
This was a very unique environment for us to be visiting as not many people visit this reef. It is closely monitored and protected by the Australian navy and Boarder force and the majority of the reef is off limits to the public.
There are no charter vessels or tourist boats that visit here. It is just a small number of private yachts that stop off here on their voyage to further off shore destinations or the Indonesian fishing vessels that stop for shelter.
The Boarder Force plane flew over daily checking on the activities on the reef calling us on VHF each day of our intention. We all felt pretty special to be here enjoying and admiring the beautiful surroundings.
Ashmore reef to cocos keeling 4th August 2017
I turned to Hannah and said "what are we doing wrong ? Are we trying to be too conservative with everything on board because of the distance?
The power was monitored carefully because of the freezer and fridge contents and the kids were only able to watch movies when the power was at 80 percent or above which was normally around later afternoon . We had just made 100 litres of water in Ashmore reef so we were replenished from the last 500 nautical miles from Darwin. We had enough food for at least 6 months.
Our course for Cocos Keeling was not the best, 270 degrees magnetic with winds westerly at 8-11 nots.
Dead behind us and always floculating between 45 degrees making it difficult to sail to the rum line. The sails flogged continuously with sail changes made often between the main sail and jib or just the cruising chute. The sea conditions were very calm and we were free to wander about the boat with out being tossed around.
It was recognised by both of us that moral had dropped on board for the first time and we had to do something quickly.
We dicided that there will be no limatations on board and we will continue life as normal. School work and reading was after breakfast, a cooked meal at lunch time, family games played as often as possible and a few enterprising projects were created for when we settle down on St Helena. We talked about schooling on St Helena and about the kids feeling towards it and off course movies in the afternoon.
Life is wonderful, that's what I came up with after watching the boat come live with family interaction and inspiring feed back from the kids. We were much more motivated.
Dead down wind sailing and flogging sails doesn't seem that bad after moral was restored to normal. With Carpe Diem starting to cover 140 miles a day, we weren't doing that bad after all.
The Indian Ocean has provided a spectacular array of starry and moon lit nights, illuminating the water as far as the eye can see as if in shollow topical water sitting on a cushion of air and dophins visited on a daily basis and I get to share this with my beautiful family. Not bad at all and we arrive in Cocos Keeling tomorrow 16th August 2017.
Cocos Keeling Indian Ocean
Formalities here were very relaxed, the port police officer we contacted over the VHF said because we came from Australia we were free to leave our boat and he would contact us later about checking in. We found out from another boat that they had been there for three days and still hadn't checked in. It was the following afternoon when the police officer contacted us but only to inform us that he would be on Home Island the next day if we needed to check in or otherwise on West Island at his office the rest of the week. For now it was beach time and we all needed a break from the boat after nineteen days at sea.
The two youngest ones were starting to favour the mask and snorkel over the googles and seemed much more confident in their swimming. We even swam the Rip (fast flow of water that floods over the reef at Direction Island). The tender was driven into the flowing water and we all jumped over holding on to the sides of the tender. We drifted at 6-7 knots over the reefs until we reached the sandy bottom. All thumbs up from the kids after that snorkel.
Our five day stay saw us swimming daily and meeting holiday makers who came here by ferry from West Island and afternoon tea took place under the sheltered builings with other yachties from the five boats anchored. A fire was lit to set the moment that we normally see in many glossy magazines. No one lives here, just the crabs and some wild chickens.
Home Island was great and the Malaysian Muslim community that lived there were friendly. They were well dressed and favoured fishing off the pier in their spare time catching milk fish. Life here felt safe and the people contented as motor bikes were left with keys in the ignition awaiting their return from their busy day. I must admit the supermarkets were stocked well but unbelievably expensive which gave us an idea of how costly it must be to live here. ( Loaf of bread $8, Oranges $8 a KG, biscuits $8.10, sliced ham $6.50, crackers $4.50, bottled water 1.5 L $4.50 and all flown in from Perth).
A few trips in the tender to collect water and fuel kept me and the kids busy. A mile each way through the reefs in blustery conditions always seemed like a mini adventure.
The last trip to Home Island saw us get on the fast ferry to West Island so we could check in and out of Cocos Keeling. This is where the Australian's come to work and the two flights a week land here from Perth bringing fresh food and a small number of tourists. It didn't feel as friendly as Home Island and the internet service didn't help with $40 Australian dollars spent and nothing done as the download was so slow. Hannah managed to sort the banking and write a small round robin letter to friends but we were ready to move on. 2000 miles of Indian Ocean, here we come!
We met Hank a sailing tutor, Tony who just bought a Peterson 34 just two weeks ago off a failed Englishman's dream to sail. Tony lives on West Island with his wife Trish and son's Jack, Henry, Soul and Tiago. He showed me how to make a latte using a coffee plunger that is just as good as you get in a cafe! I'm not going to forget how to make that in a hurry!
We also met Louise Foot and her holiday maker friends. It was great having you all on board Carpe Diem.
cocos keeling to rodriguez 22th August 2017
An uncomfortable passage
With 2000 nautical mile passage started with a small complication, the auto pilot display flickered as we tried to engage the helm but sorted it's self out.
Still the wind blew south easterly at 30 knots and the weather predicting it to drop off to 20-25 knots in two days. It has been uncomfortable sailing with the southerly swell knocking us off course making the boat round up into the wind. Once we reduced the sail area we managed to stay on course with a little head sail to balance the boat. Once every hour we had a wave break into the cockpit and the people inside well equipped for the weather and tethered on. For the first time in eleven years the third reef in the main was used and still we averaged 170nautical miles a day.
On day four thing changed for the worst, the auto pilot had given up the ghost. There was no link with the onboard computer and as much as I tried to find the problem the more I could see the concerns from my crew. Like I have done on many occassions, I confirmed the problem and declared the solution. We were all going to helm, even the little ones. There was still a lot of day light hours ahead so we got straight into practising helming the boat. Hannah was a little nervous at first and recovered well .Joshua doesn't need guidance and got on with it. Sadie, well she seems to impress me a lot and Jacob was not far behind. I was last to helm which continued into the early morning but the weather was not letting up with the winds still at 30 knots but gusting to 40. We were never going to keep this up and we still had seven days of sailing ahead, so a hove too manoeuvre was perfectly executed thanks to my crew.
It was four and a half hours later when some well rested people emerged into the morning light ready to drive the boat out of irons and start sailing again. Joushua was first up whilst I gave the auto pilot another look over. A few beep test, pulling Sadie's cabin apart to get to the computer and being tossed by the rough conditions. Eventually the problem was found, the seatalk cable had broken down, luckily I had some long speaker cable and was able to fix the problem. You could see the relief in everyone's faces when I first engaged the auto pilot again.
There have been other problems coursed by the bad weather, the island seat had broken after Hannah tried to avoid been tossed across the boat when the wave crashed into the port side. A stanchion was broken at the base but still holding on and a small tear in the main sail after putting in the third reef.
The boat is a mess with things falling out of it's stowage places but everyone seems happy. I hope there are no more breakages and it looks like I will be very busy in the next port.
Day six, one thousand miles covered and six days to go, the weathers not changing and the uncomfortable swell still making life down stairs a little difficult to function. The TV seems to be the focal point of our day so far but today, day eight things are looking up. The sun is shining brightly and the music blaring in the cockpit. The waves are getting smaller but still confusing with the boat tumbling through a set of waves every half hour. A full genoa leads the way and the main sail given a break as the wind hovers around 25 knots as the end of this passage draws to a close. Despite all the drama on board the kids still seem happy and contented.
On the 13 th day the mountainous heights of the island brought joy to us all and we sailed towards it under the colourful shade of our cruising chute.
We arrived at Ridrigeuz on the 3rd September, a little tired but not broken.